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Car group tests

Subaru Outback vs Skoda Superb Outdoor

New Subaru Outback offers a practical estate alternative to an SUV. Can it leave Skoda’s Superb Outdoor trailing in the mud?

If you want a car with plenty of practicality, lots of comfort and decent off-road ability, your choice isn’t only limited to an SUV. There’s a growing group of high-riding estates that offer vast amounts of space, come loaded with useful kit and won’t get flummoxed by a patch of wet grass, which provide an alternative to a conventional 4x4

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Best estate cars

This is exactly what Subaru’s new Outback aims to deliver and – now in its fifth generation – it’s more upmarket than ever. It might not boast the same sense of style as most off-roaders, but its rugged looks and great all-terrain capability have huge appeal – and it’s cheaper than many SUVs, too.

Best 4x4s on sale

The four-wheel-drive Subaru has to face some stiff competition in this class, though. We’ve lined up another all-round family estate to rival it here, in the form of the Skoda Superb Outdoor Plus 4x4 with the firm’s punchy 168bhp turbodiesel and DSG gearbox. It’s one of the best off-road estates on sale, and although we’ll see an all-new Superb later this year, the current car still has a lot to offer. 

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To find out if the latest Outback has what it takes to beat the soon-to-be-replaced Skoda, we put the two cars head-to-head both on and off-road.

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Subaru Outback review

Skoda Superb Outdoor review

Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which rugged estate car comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Towing ability

With their four-wheel-drive traction and torquey diesels, these two cars are perfect tow vehicles. The Skoda has a slight advantage, thanks to a towing capacity of 2,000kg, compared to 1,800kg for the Outback. Skoda offers a detachable towbar for £255, while Subaru has a similar set-up for£329, or a retractable version for £917.

Rugged design

Both cars get extra styling cues to highlight the off-road element. The big plastic bumpers look tougher and should stand up to abuse better on uneven ground. While the Skoda better combines this with the standard Superb’s more elegant looks, the Outback is more stylish than before.

Safety kit

Subaru’s EyeSight set-up uses two cameras mounted above the rear-view mirror to detect objects ahead. The lenses can even recognise the colour of brake lights to slow the car earlier, helping boost safety by applying the brakes to try to avoid a crash.

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We test Subaru's Eyesight safety system

Verdict

1st place: Skoda Superb Outdoor

Even though the current Superb is on the way out, it beats the Subaru to the top spot due to its blend of quality, performance and massive practicality. The Outdoor’s design changes give a touch of extra style, but ultimately off-road ability isn’t great. However, owners aren’t likely to venture far off the beaten track, and on the road the Superb Outdoor is surefooted and more alert.

2nd place: Subaru Outback

It’s hard to ignore the Outback’s standard spec, but next to the Skoda it still doesn’t have much of a premium feel. Add in the fact it’s slower, not as enjoyable to drive, less economical and pricier to buy, and the Subaru’s superior off-road performance simply isn’t enough to send it to the top of the class. It’s a big improvement over the old car, though, and it’s good value, too.

Coming soon: Is it worth waiting for the Volvo V60 Cross Country? 

The V60 Cross Country is set to slot into the range between Volvo's V40 Cross Country and XC70. If you want 4WD, you need the D4 SE Nav Geartronic auto, but this costs a hefty £35,275. The 2WD cars are better value and still have the looks of a crossover estate. 

Key specs: 

 Skoda Superb Outdoor Plus 2.0 TDI 170 4x4 DSGSubaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic
On-the-road price/total as tested£30,240/£30,775£32,995/£32,995
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£12,474/41.3%£13,050/39.6%
Depreciation£17,766£19,945
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,651/£3,302£1,900/£3,800
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,900/£3,166£2,175/£3,625
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost23/£399/F/£14526/£425/G/£180
Servicing costs£479 (3yrs/30k)TBC
   
Length/wheelbase4,833/2,761mm4,815/2,745mm
Height/width1,511/1,817mm1,605/1,840mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl flat-four/1,998cc
Peak power168/4,200 bhp/rpm148/3,600 bhp/rpm
Peak torque350/1,750 Nm/rpm350/1,600 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd auto/4wdCVT/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel60 litres/sealant60 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down)633/1,865 litres559/1,848 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,581/638/2,000kg1,691/439/1,800kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.8 metres/0.29Cd11.0 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs5yrs (100,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers20,000 miles (2yrs)/13512,000 miles (1yr)/59
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.1st/5th16th/4th
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars90/81/50/5 (2009)85/87/70/5 (2014)
   
0-60/30-70mph8.5/8.4 secs10.4/10.7 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.6/4.9 secs4.0/4.8 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th7.1/9.1 secs/N/A7.0/9.1/11.1 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph135mph/2,100rpm119mph/1,900rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph51.2/37.0/9.3m50.6/38.1/9.7m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph65/55/58/60dB63/60/66/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range34.0/7.5/449 miles29.7/6.5/392 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined49.6/55.4/41.5mpg37.7/53.3/46.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined10.9/12.2/9.1mpl8.3/11.7/10.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket223/149g/km/27%255/159g/km/29%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park. sensors/cameraSeven/yes/rear/noSeven/yes/no/yes
Automatic box/stability/cruise controlYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/£250Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£535/£1,150/£400Yes/no/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/no/yes
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